Why Go To Sequoia National Park
Home to some of the tallest trees in the world, Sequoia National Park is a humbling place to visit. With the magnificent trees towering hundreds of feet above you, it's easy to feel small in comparison. Located about 80 miles east of Fresno, California, in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, the park was established in 1890 as a measure to protect the giant trees from being logged, making it America's second national park. The adjacent Kings Canyon National Park was formed in 1940 and eventually, both parks became linked together.
Highlights of the park are, of course, the trees, including the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest tree, standing 275 feet tall with a base more than 36 feet in diameter. But there is plenty to see and do, from exploring caves to hiking to snowshoeing. What's more, the park is open every day of the year and each season holds its own charms.
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Sequoia National Park Travel Tips
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Sequoia National Park is June through August when the weather is the most stable. The park is open 24/7, year-round, but there are certain challenges during select seasons, such as when it snows in December and snow chains or tires are required for safely navigating park roads. Beginning in September, the park reduces its ranger-led programming and certain facilities cut their hours. Some parts of the park, such as the Mineral King and Cedar Grove areas, close entirely due to access issues.
Weather in Sequoia National Park
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
What You Need to Know
- Don't rely on technology Cell service in many areas of the park is spotty, meaning your GPS or smartphone may not work. Plan to pick up paper maps at the park's visitors centers.
- Check the weather Due to the extreme elevation range in these parks, weather conditions vary widely between areas. Some areas might be closed or you might need snow tires or chains to get through, even in the spring and fall. Check the park's website for the most up-to-date information.
- Gas up No gasoline is sold within the park, so make sure you have a full tank before you head out.
- Pay to play A vehicle pass to the park costs $30; an individual pass, for a pedestrian on a bike or on foot, costs $15. Each pass is valid for seven consecutive days, and includes entry to Sequoia & Kings Canyon national parks and the Hume Lake District of Sequoia National Forest/Giant Sequoia National Monument.
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- Visit on an entrance-free day Free park admission is offered at all national parks four days each year, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week (in April) and Veterans Day, among others.
- Rough it If you don't mind giving up a few comforts, you'll save on accommodation costs by pitching a tent at one of the park's 14 campgrounds instead of booking a room at one of its lodges.
- Pack a picnic Stop at markets or minimarts outside the park to pick up picnic fixings. The prices outside the park will likely be lower than those inside the park.
What to Eat
There are a limited number of dining options in the park, but they range from snack bars to fine dining. Not all the snack bars are open year-round, so it's wise to check ahead and plan accordingly. The Peaks Restaurant at Wuksachi Lodge, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round, is located in the heart of Sequoia National Park and offers stunning views. The kitchen focuses on serving sustainable foods, like grass-fed beef and local seafood. The restaurant has a rustic feel and is a cozy place to dine. The full buffet breakfast is quite popular and you can pick up a boxed lunch if you want to picnic.
Another option is the Grant Grove Restaurant, which is also open year-round for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located within the Kings Canyon in the Grant Grove Village, it has a similar sustainable food focus and features locally grown ingredients. A full list of dining options, as well as hours, is located on the park's website.
There are also plenty of picnic areas, all of which have restrooms. Some also have water and barbecue grills. If you plan to grill, make sure no fire restrictions are in place. As always, whenever there is a chance black bears might be around, keep your food within arm's reach and store it, as well as trash and any items with an odor, in metal food-storage boxes. Outside the park, you'll find a variety of restaurants, markets and minimarts along Highway 198.
Common sense safety precautions are usually the rule of thumb in most national parks and visitors simply need to pay attention to, and respect, the elements and wildlife to have a great experience.
Always carry plenty of food and water with you if you're hiking, and plan to fill up the gas tank before you enter the park (there are no gas stations located within the park). You'll also want to pick up a map at one of the park's visitors centers, as cell service is unreliable within the park.
According to the National Park Service, most park deaths result from drowning in rivers. While the surface may look calm, strong currents often run below. Getting out of a cold, swift river is often impossible. Unless you are very familiar with the area, never hike or camp alone. As for animals, make plenty of noise when hiking and always secure your food and garbage. You may see black bears in the park, but close encounters are rare. Keep your distance. For more information on safety tips, consult the NPS website.
Getting Around Sequoia National Park
The best way to get around Sequoia National Park is by car and on foot. Inside the park, there are a number of areas you can visit, including visitors centers, the Giant Forest Museum, Crystal Cave and a variety of trails. Once you decide on a plan, you can leave your car in a parking area and take off on a walk.
To reach Sequoia, most travelers fly into Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT), which is about 65 miles northwest of the park. Renting a car to reach the park is common. From late May through mid-September, the Sequoia Shuttle transports visitors (for a fee) from the nearby towns of Visalia and Three Rivers, up Highway 198 to Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia National Park. During the summertime, there is also a free in-park shuttle that offers rides in the park's Giant Forest, Lodgepole, Wuksachi and Dorst Creek Campground areas.
When Sequoia National Park was established in 1890, it was America's second national park. It was the first created to protect a living organism: Sequoiadendron giganteum.
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